Posts Tagged ‘Medea’

Medea, English National Opera, London Coliseum, February 2013

16 February, 2013

Spectacular success for the ENO gives audiences the British premiere of this baroque jewel that has lain in the shadows for about 300 years. With an excellent libretto by Thomas Corneille, well translated by Christopher Cowell, this terrific production by David McVicar makes compelling theatre.

Medea conjures confusion, all images ENO/ Clive Barda

Medea conjures confusion, all images ENO/ Clive Barda

Excellent choreography by Lynne Page suits both music and drama, Paule Constable’s lighting gives a very effective atmosphere, and Bunny Christie’s designs are terrific.

2.Medea, Sarah Connolly (c) Clive BardaThe whole thing is set in 1940s wartime, with Creon as head of a French army, Jason a Royal Navy Captain, and the airmen American. Jason is needed to help fight for Corinth, and Creon is only too happy to banish Medea, offer Jason his daughter Creusa as a bride, and ignore Orontes, Prince of Argos who expects to wed her. The interests of Orontes and Medea naturally coincide, but Creusa being in love with Jason, firmly rejects Orontes, and Medea, as her name implies (it’s related to the Greek verb μηδομαι meaning cunningly plan or contrive), decides to exact vengeance on Jason.

The turning point is in Act III, between the two intervals, when Jason’s dissembling and scheming is fully revealed to Medea and she decides to invoke the supernatural powers she embodies. At this point Charpentier’s music gives her more colourful harmonies, and though audiences in 1693 might have objected, we are entirely ready for them, and the whole effect is a musical treat.

3.Medea, Jeffrey Francis, Sarah Connolly (c) Clive BardaSarah Connolly was a marvellous Medea, sure of voice, stage presence and theatrical impact, a woman who can summon demons from the depths in Act III, and dispute Creon’s will in Act IV, bringing in wish maidens to drive him crazy. The underlying idea in that scene is that Creon’s relationship with his daughter Creusa has already shown a somewhat incestuous impropriety, and he is an easy victim. Creon himself was brilliantly sung and acted by Brindley Sherratt, and Katherine Manley gave a beautiful performance as Creusa. Roderick Williams sang forcefully as Orontes, showing admirable emotion in Act IV, while Jeffrey Francis gave a calm but rather wooden portrayal of Jason. In the end the dead bodies of his young sons are brought in, and Medea ascends to the heavens witnessing her final terrrifying act of vengeance.

Fine dancing and body movements by the twelve dancers in their multiple roles, and it is a pleasure to see effective choreography, unlike some recent productions at a nearby opera house in London. Super conducting by Christian Curnyn brought out the intriguing nature of the music. The big boss of French music in the seventeenth century was Lully who fiercely protected his territory, but Charpentier was arguably a better composer, and Medea is a masterpiece. Whether you like baroque opera or not, a production of this calibre it is a must-see. Unmissable.

Performances continue until March 16 — for details click here.

Medea, Richmond Theatre, November 2012

21 November, 2012

In the original Greek play by Euripides, Medea is a barbarian princess brought to Corinth by Jason as his wife. After he leaves her to marry the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth, her sexual and vengeful energy finds a way to burn up those holding power over the civilization she finds herself in.

In this modern tragic-comic version of the story by Mike Bartlett, Corinth is a small-town housing estate, Creon owns the house she lives in, and Aegeus, the king who offers her a safe haven to his city of Athens hoping she will help him father a child, is a man with a house in Spain.

Interior of the house

The fine designs by Ruari Murchison allow us to see the interior of Medea’s house, as well as its neat façade when the walls close up. At the end, where in Euripides’ original Medea ascends into the chariot of the sun god, the roof of the house opens and we see the full horror. It is all very cleverly done, with superb music and sound design by Tom Mills. Towards the end when Jason (Adam Levy) comes to see Medea on his wedding eve and try to settle things, she says, “I forgive you”, and the music stops dead. They go upstairs to her room, and the little boy in the next room wakes up. The designs allow us to see it all, and bring it alive as a modern drama.

Medea and her boy

Medea herself is brilliantly portrayed by Rachael Stirling. Clever, mercurial, narcissistic and appallingly low on self-esteem, the text even allows her neighbours Sarah (Lu Corfield) and Pam (Amelia Lowdell) the use of modern psychological terms such as, “She’s transferring her anger”. Her feeling of being an outsider is well captured when she complains about Sarah and Pam having known one another for years, when in fact they have only just met. The bitchiness at the beginning of the play pales into insignificance as things move on, and Medea’s barbed comments turn to a native cunning whose consequences catch us by surprise.

Jason and Medea

Rachael Stirling, whose mother Diana Rigg played the same role in Euripides’ play twenty years ago, gives a riveting performance of a woman who sees in the breakdown of her marriage a grievous insult to her own wit and intelligence. Other people are simple-minded clots, except for Jason, the landlord (Creon) and his daughter (Glauce), who will find everything they cherish burn to oblivion in the fire of her revenge. Her portrayal demands a visit to this intriguing production by the Headlong theatre group.

Performances continue until November 24 — for details click here — after which it goes to the Northcott Theatre, Exeter until December 1.